NTSB delays hearing on 2017 UM basketball plane crash

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Crews work on a plane that was carrying the Michigan men's basketball team when it slid off a runway March 8, 2017, during an aborted takeoff, causing extensive damage to the aircraft and forcing passengers to exit via emergency slides at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti.

Washington — Due to the partial government shutdown, the National Transportation Safety Board has postponed next week's hearing on the 2017 Willow Run Airport runway incident involving the Michigan men’s basketball team.

The NTSB tweeted Friday that it would reschedule its planned Jan. 15 board meeting "for a future date." 

The NTSB is an independent investigatory agency housed in the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is among the nine federal departments whose funding ran out Dec. 21. 

The lapse in funding authority entered its 21st day on Friday, with no sign of a deal on the horizon between congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump, who is holding out for $5.7 billion for a border wall.  

The NTSB has released photos of the March 8, 2017 accident when the University of Michigan's basketball charter airplane skidded 1,000 feet past the end of a runway at Willow Run Airport on a windy day. None of the 116 onboard was seriously injured.  Above, firefighters work at the scene.

The runway incident occurred March 8, 2017, and involved a Boeing MD-83 airplane chartered to carry the University of Michigan men’s basketball team to Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia for a Big Ten tournament game against Illinois.

The basketball program said at the time that the plane attempted to take off in high winds but the captain aborted the takeoff, braked and then the plane skidded 1,000 feet off the end of Runway 23L at Ypsilanti’s Willow Run Airport. 

The flight's 110 passengers and six flight crew members evacuated the airplane on emergency escape slides, with one passenger receiving a minor injury. The plane was "substantially damaged," according to the NTSB.

The charter flight was operated by Ameristar Charters. In addition to the Michigan men’s basketball team, cheerleaders, band members and members of the staff’s families were also on board.

A preliminary NTSB report indicated that one of the plane's elevators — there is a left and a right elevator, which are the primary means of controlling an airplane’s pitch — was jammed in a “trailing edge-down position (airplane nose down)."

The NTSB also previously released part of its investigative report revealing that pilot Mark Radloff broke protocol by aborting takeoff while traveling at 187 mph, though his decision ended up saving all 116 lives.

Washtenaw County, where the airport is located, was under a high wind advisory on the day of the incident. The preliminary NTSB report said wind speeds at the time were 35 knots (about 40 mph) with gusts of 50 knots (about 56 mph).

The tail of the University of Michigan's chartered jetliner blocks a road at Willow Run Airport the day after the accident.

mburke@detroitnews.com